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The Garden of Shadows review: A magical and haunting coming together of nature, technology and art

Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: Botanic Gardens is skilfully transformed and feels so different in the dark

The Garden of Shadows. Jony Easterby. Image by Jony Easterby, Dublin Fringe Festival 2023

The Garden of Shadows

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin,

Everything is different in the dark. Shadows are cast; some things, perhaps otherwise unnoticed, are emphasised by the way limited light falls and others disappear into black. We respond differently to a familiar place, such as the Botanic Gardens, when we experience it at night, when it’s usually closed.

Welsh artist Jony Easterby (Remnant Ecologies was a hit at last year’s Fringe) has created a perambulatory, outdoor, immersive sound and vision experience, spotlighting the natural world’s beauty and interconnections. It’s both an observation and a distortion.

The ecological intervention is presented by Fringe, with National Botanic Gardens, Office of Public Works and Axis Ballymun, supported by Welsh Government Office in Ireland and Wales Arts International.

Audiences gather in darkness and small groups enter the gardens at intervals, following a kilometre-long trail (plenty of helpers to guide), lit atmospherically, as colours play on tree-bark and leaves. Going at your own pace over approximately an hour, you come across 18 sculptures or installations, mainly light-based, with electronic or ambient music and some picking up on natural sounds. It’s a sort of magical mystery tour where you don’t know what you’ll come across around the next copse.


There are lightboxes with manipulated photographs detailing pods, leaves and branches. Light-sculptures depict a bird in flight. An avenue of automata-style bird-tables make bird-sounds. A stunning dynamic lighting-projection conjured in a clearing evokes growth cycle: seed to sapling, blossoming, dying, being cut down. There are light projections of floating sapling, an espalier tree and onions. Multitudes of flowers bordering a path seem to sing as you pass.

The effect alters our consciousness of growing things. A convergence of nature, technology and art, this is skilful, magical and haunting.

Continues most nights, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival, until September 24

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times